Fans of every iteration of the Spirit of Vengeance will want to pick up “Ghost Racers” #1, the Battleworld title from writer Felipe Smith and artist Juan Gedeon. Set as a winner-take-all fight-to-the-finish, the five Riders from across Marvel Universe history meet in the Killiseum for the entertainment of the masses under god and master Doom.
Each character brings a familiar slice of their previous existence with them, whether it’s the cowboy apparel on zombie-centaur Carter Slade or Robbie Reyes’ souped-up Charger. Gedeon modifies the characters to this series, giving each of the one-time Ghost Riders some more flare and distinction. To help distinguish between Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze, the older Ghost Rider is given a uniform reminiscent of Evel Knievel, as that era introduced both motorcycling masters. The odd character out is Alejandra, who served as a Ghost Rider for the shortest amount of time relative to the rest of the quintet.
Gedeon makes Alejandra distinct without defaulting to amplified sexuality, but it really is her character and decision-making that separates Alejandra from the pack. Smith makes Alejandra (whose surname inexplicably bounces between Blaze and Jones) the dark horse of the issue, giving her a chance to prove her mettle against the more accomplished, more recognizable Riders. The writer lays out opportunities for all of the Racers to define themselves, frequently in heated, adversarial roles against one another. Arcade is used as the stadium announcer, dictating the action as it happens and uniting it with marvelous choreographed vehicular jousting from Gedeon.
The visuals on “Ghost Racers” #1 would be woefully incomplete without colorist Tamra Bonvillain and letterer Cory Petit. While Gedeon’s art would be strong enough to carry the tale if it was told in grayscale, Bonvillain adds depth and temperature to the story. She adds texture and nostalgia to the visuals as well, going so far as to break down the images on the Killiseum’s oversized screens, giving “real life” more impact visually than the video boards. Petit’s contributions take Gedeon’s visuals to a logical conclusion, with each of the Ghost Racers sporting their own word balloon style, varied in color and font.
“Ghost Racers” #1 not only gives readers five Ghost Riders in one comic, but it also packs the pages of that comic with widescreen, high-octane action. Championing the vibe of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” this comic is a special effects extravaganza filled with flames, explosions and screaming skulls. Any fan of Ghost Rider or motorized mayhem needs to pick up this comic. As an added bonus, Gedeon supplies a single page describing his creative process with Carter Slade’s appearance in “Ghost Racers” #1, which makes a nice afterthought for this intense issue. “Ghost Racers” #1 offers readers a powerful opportunity to have their gears stripped and their minds blown, if even just for twenty pages.